Mattanawcook softball team hopes third time is the charm

Pitcher Haley McLaughlin of Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln, pictured during the June 2016 Class C North softball title game, is among the key returnees who will try to lead the Lynx to a regional championship this season.

At a time when a lot of high school teams are strapped for numbers, the Mattanawcook Academy softball program in Lincoln has 32 players.

That means head coach Dean Libbey can have a full varsity and JV team with four freshman girls swinging between varsity and JV.

“I haven’t had this many in a long time. We have a good group of freshmen,” said Libbey, who is in his 39th season coaching the Lynx and has 15 freshmen on his roster.

But Libbey doesn’t just have quantity, he also has quality.

The Lynx have reached the Class C North final in each of the last two years and have posted a 30-8 record.

But they haven’t been able to solve the Golden Bucks of Bucksport, who beat them 3-1 in last year’s regional final after posting a 6-2 triumph in 2015.

The Lynx are off to a 4-0 start and have outscored their opponents 46-20.

They returned six starters off last year’s 15-4 team including standout junior pitcher Haley McLaughlin, who is averaging 13 strikeouts per game according to Libbey.

McLaughlin was their ace a year ago and is even better this season, he said.

“She has better control and is mixing up her pitches better,” said Libbey. “She is more composed. She had matured. She has kept us in every ballgame.”

McLaughlin is tutored by well-respected pitching coach Bob Mercer.

“She throws five pitches very well and she’s working on a sixth one, a screwball,” said Libbey. “She works with him every Sunday. He has done a very good job with her.”

Emily Page is a four-year starter behind the plate and junior Kim Voisine is back at short. Senior Gabby Tilton and sophomore Kourtney Thurlow have returned to share first base and junior Audrey Tash is back in left field. Sophomore Katie Tolman is the third baseman after playing right field in 2016.

Senior Courtney Gordon is playing softball for the first time and Libbey said he has been a nice addition at second base.

MA has four players battling for the center field and right field jobs. The two who prove to be the best hitters will play. Seniors Symone Malbaurn, Erica Slomienski and Madison Page, Emily’s cousin, and junior Gabby Ham are the players in the mix.

Tolman, Thurlow and Gordon can also play the outfield.

Junior Lindsey Gelfuso is a utility infielder.

Libbey has been  happy with the way they have swung the bats but said MA is still struggling a little on defense primarily because “we’ve only had two practices outside on our field.”

McLaughlin, Emily and Madison Page, Tolman and Voisine are the leading hitters. Tolman has already hit a grand slam. Tash and Gordon are their speedsters.

The Lynx are looking for their first regional championship since they won back-to-back regional titles in 2000 and 2001. They went on to win the state crown in 2000.

P.J. Stanley is the JV coach and Libbey’s varsity assistant.